Sunday 14 Oct: Rich young man – Icon for Year of Faith

In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear the story of the man approaching Jesus, wondering what he must do to inherit eternal life. But while the man has kept all the commandments, there is one further thing he must do according:

Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me”.

Jesus indicates to us that our real treasure is not signified by the amount of worldly goods we possess, rather it is the gift of eternal life which we will inherit in heaven. Being charitable to others is our Christian duty and in doing so we can live in a greater simplicity, sharing our goods and possessions with those who do not have.  In this way we can keep our eyes fixed on the gift of eternal life that Jesus speaks about, living according to the commandments, in communion with God and with each other.

The rich young man becomes a timely reminder for us as we commence the Year of Faith.  The Church proclaims the invitation to faith which Jesus offered the rich young man.  The way of faith provides a richer path to life than the way of material things.  Pope Benedict XVI reflected on this theme in his homily for the opening of the Year of Faith:

Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women.

In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive.

The journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren – as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years. How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys? Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.